CATHOLIC HOME-SCHOOL LEADERS JOIN FIRST ANNUAL ROUND TABLE
CHICAGO — At the first Round Table for Catholic Home-School Support Group Leaders, held the weekend of April 29th -May 1st, local, regional, and state leaders shared practical suggestions and concerns in support of Catholic home-schooling families.
Dr. Mary Kay Clark coordinated the round table in response to requests from home- schoolers across the country. Fifteen states were represented: Leaders from California, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming attended. Dr. William Luckey of Front Royal, Va., acted as facilitator; Fr. Francis Holland of Essex Junction, Vt., and Fr. Charles Fiore of Madison, Wis., also participated. Kathie Ondracek, a resident and home-schooler in the Chicago area, handled the local coordination. Ginny Seuffert of Illinois and Mary Clair Robinson of Iowa also assisted in topic ideas for the round table.
All home-school leaders, whether attending or not, were asked to join in a novena that began April 20th to pray that the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother would guide participants of the round table.
Topics of discussion fell into three main areas and included the needs of home-school support groups, the problems within the Catholic Church, and the spiritual crisis in America. The general consensus was that the home-schooling movement is definitely playing a growing, major role in preserving the Roman Catholic faith in America, and that Catholic home-schooling families are a bastion of orthodoxy today.
The conference stressed the advantages of networking with established religious orders, parishes, and groups offering spiritual services, as well as of being involved with local parish and sacramental programs.
Within that framework, priests who will confer the sacraments upon home-educated children were praised. It has been the experience of some that many priests are uninformed about home education and do not truly understand it.
Many parent leaders shared their experiences with parish priests who insisted that home-educated children be enrolled in local CCD programs to receive the sacraments. These priests may ignore parental concerns that such programs are not always teaching the faith in its entirety and that parents are the primary educators of their children. Many priests would not agree to have private interviews with home-educated children to be certain of their readiness to receive the sacraments.
Fr. Holland stated that no priest could rightfully do so. Fr. Fiore further explained that parents should realize they are the primary educators of their children, a right conferred on them by God Himself, and should stand firm when approaching their pastors about conferring the sacraments upon their children.
"Parents must realize they hold the high ground and kindly but firmly explain that they are part of the parish and that they home-school their children simply because it is their right. The sacraments cannot be denied by anyone — pastor, bishop, cardinal, or even the Holy Father himself — because a child was prepared for the sacraments by his parents. Priests who understand the rights of parents will have no problem with this. Pastors may examine children for First Confession, Communion, and Confirmation. Students who display an understanding commensurate with their age are qualified to receive the sacraments," said Fr. Fiore.
Concern for local orthodox priests was also expressed by different leaders, as these same priests are often the ones who receive much pressure from their parish councils or hierarchy for their orthodox ways. Home-schoolers should not put too much pressure on such priests, but instead should be quietly visible to them to show support and appreciation.
The importance of avoiding stigmatization as radicals or eccentrics who are "bucking the public or parochial school system" was also discussed. Home-schoolers should emphasize that parents are, again, the primary educators of their children in all of their educational needs — including religious, moral, physical, and civic training — and the Church has always taught this.
The round table examined comprehensive ways to introduce religious vocations to both boys and girls.
A small array of ideas, religious orders to contact, the other sources to look for were exchanged. Leaders also showed interest in finding Catholic resources to help them teach the faith, Catholic history and science, and also art and music, especially in the elementary years.
One extremely important topic was the need to organize Catholic state home-school groups. As Dr. Clark observed, "There are Catholic aspects that we can't get from Christian Protestant state groups. Catholic state organizations can accomplish two things. First, they can present everything from the Catholic viewpoint and second, they can help Catholic home-schoolers network about matters that concern home education and the Church, especially in emergency situations like H.R. 6 and the current altar girl business."
Leaders also discussed how many Christian (but not necessarily Catholic) state or local home-school organizations want those who join them to sign a statement of faith. Most leaders agreed it would not be morally right to sign a Protestant statement of faith as most of these include such clauses as "the Bible is the infallible and last word of God" and "man is saved by faith alone." Quite obviously, a Catholic could not in good conscience sign such a statement and most of the Catholic leaders agreed they would not do so. Some participants also pointed out that many predominantly Catholic states do not have state Catholic home-school organizations, but they do have Christian ones where Catholics are not welcome to share Catholic materials. Catholics should therefore begin to form their own state organizations.
Ginny Seuffert added that she would like to see more organizations formed within the next year to get a communications network going at the state level. There should be at least one centralized contact person per state for that purpose.
Plans for next year's round table are being coordinated by Chicago area leaders. Requests for information should be addressed to:
231 S. Grove Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302.
The June 30, 1994 issue of
201 Ohio Street
St. Paul, MN 55107.